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A period movie with a difference
vonnie-47 September 1999
In this most affecting adaptation of Henry James's dense and difficult novel, Ian Softley brings passion back to the oft-derided genre of "period" movie. There are many angles in the story; tales of deception, social hypocrisy, conflict between our hearts' desire and our conscience, of regrets, and some degree, of just deserts. However, in the heart of it lies an unforgettable love triangle, fuelled by the amazing performances of the three leads. Helena Bohnam-Carter, in the pinnacle of her career, embodies the fierce intelligence and ruthless determination of Kate Croy, a woman born in a wrong era, whose effort to hold on to both love and wealth tragically backfires. Linus Roache, playing Kate's secret love, brings tortured Merton Densher (where does James come up with these names?) vividly to life. He has the sort of intense good looks and physical presence required for this role in spades; and his dramatic ability shines though, especially in his last scene with Millie, where he acknowledges his duplicity before the all-accepting love of the dying girl with an incredible raw emotionality. I was most impressed with Allison Elliot's Millie, however. The angelic Millie could have been a big cliché of a character, but in Elliot's skillful hands, Millie takes on the luminance of spirits and love of life that grow even as her physical strength fails. The story and the actors are tremendously aided by gorgeous cinematography (especially the mournful beauty of rain-soaked Venice) , costumes-to-die-for by Sandy Powell (who wore that fabulous red dress to this year's Oscar, accepting the award for "Shakespeare in Love". She should have won it for this film), and beautiful music. A movie to be watched in a dark rainy afternoon, and savored like fine wine.
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Rent it
iago-625 November 1998
I can't believe there are only two comments for this film. It's a subtle film and a rare one in which your feelings for the characters change. I have read the book, and seen all the other films made of Henry James novels, and this one is by far the best at translating at least some of the moral ambiguity at the heart of most James novels.

Helena plays a woman forced to give up her boyfriend Merton because he has no money. She meets and befriends a wealthy, but terminally ill American, Milly. She decides that Merton will court Milly, inherit all of Milly's money when she dies, and have the funds to marry Helena. The film is about Merton's moral awakening as he realizes how horrible what he's doing is, and WHO Helena's character really is.

You would have to read the novel to understand how difficult it is to adapt this material, and what a great job they really have done. Bring your hankies for the scene near the end (not in the novel, actually) in which Merton apologizes to Milly. This invented scene crystallizes all of the emotion and makes the movie fulfilling in a way a straight working of the novel could not have been.

Helena is good, but her character is simplified somewhat from the book. I think this should have at least been up for Best Picture. See it.

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goldengategatsby19 December 2001
The Wings of the Dove is an incredible film.

Helena Bonham Carter performs her role with nuances of visage and body, and in particular eyebrow, which capture the essence of Kate's manipulation and longing. Everyone performs well.

The cinematography is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen on film--it ranks near Vertigo as one of a few films which breach entertainment and are masterpieces of art. The Venetian and Edwardian locales never cease to fascinate and titilate the viewer. The final sequence represents graphically the vacuity which has enveloped Kate and her love with haunting realism.

Do not watch the film to be "entertained"--it depresses with little reserve and wrenches the heart. Let the music, camera, and Bonham Carter sweep you into the magic of this cinematic masterpiece.
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Subtlety is not dead
wcb31 October 1998
It's nice to see that some directors still believe that a great movie is subtle. No need to hit audiences over the head to get the point across. Think 'Howard's End.' Think 'Remains of the Day.' Think 'A Passage to India.' Wings of the Dove is in the same league. Helena Bonham-Carter is magnificent as she takes us from thinking of her in sympathetic terms, to beginning to have second thoughts about her character, to becoming aghast at the cold calculation of her plot. No one is good or evil here, merely human and full of beauty, pain, and unworthiness. I loved it. And most of all, it's a moving PICTURE. The night scenes in the gondola are some of the greatest cinematography ever. 'Titanic' didn't come close.
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Great film!
jnunes-115 August 2006
This is one of my favorite films of the 90's. Great cast, fantastic screenplay, simply an incredible telling of a compelling story. The movie moves along in organic fashion, never feeling contrived or manipulative (probably because the story comes from a good novelist). The characters are well developed and make the choices you believe these characters would make. Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roach and Allison Elliot are all excellent, and Charlotte Rampling is always good. I also like the contrast set up with the dreary English settings vs. the romantic and elegant Venetion scenes. I think this movie is vastly underrated and should be seen by any serious film fan.
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Poetic, subtle, and beautiful
silkrabbit14 June 2000
"The Wings of the Dove" poetically unveils itself with beautiful visuals and explorations in to the complexities of desire. A tragic irony, with an excellent finale. This movie also contains the most painfully emotive sex scene that I have ever seen; as it is honest and detailed with emotions that so rarely are captured this brilliantly in 'art'. This movie is intimate.
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Carter showcase of very good movie
SKG-22 March 1999
This was not one of my favorite novels when I read it (for James, I prefer THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY), but this is a very good film. Director Iain Softley and writer Hossein Amini made the smart decision to move this up in time to the 1910's, which enables them to get to the passions more than James does here. Softley also makes this darker than most literary adaptations, in look and in tone, without suffocating it, and he avoids making this a film about production design rather than about a story. He does labor a bit in trying for tragedy, but that's only a quibble.

Alison Elliot, a good actress (I liked her in THE UNDERNEATH and the otherwise flawed THE SPITFIRE GRILL), takes awhile to warm up as Millie, because she seems a little too modern, but she avoids easy sentiment as the dying heiress. Linus Roache, who I thought was a little awkward in PRIEST, here avoids the trap of being the third wheel, making us understand what both Millie and Kate see in Merton. But the real triumph here is Helena Bonham Carter, who gave the best performance of the year. One character says of Kate, "There's something going on behind those beautiful lashes," and that can usually be said of the characters Carter plays, but sometimes she's overly detached. Here, she's completely engaged, and she pulls off the difficult trick of never losing our sympathies even when her character does something despicable. And where James sort of made Kate just manipulative, Carter makes her human and longing.
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An exceptional film with my all-time favorite female performance.
dead475489 January 2008
This one really took me by surprise, in the best way possible. The story is a perfect blend of suspense and romance that is flawlessly engaging from start to finish. I couldn't help but keep my eyes glued to the screen the entire time. It flows beautifully and never moves too far ahead or too slow for the viewer. There wasn't a single second where I was bored or waiting for the film to end. I'm not usually the biggest fan of a period romance, but I was blown away by this one. The score is incredible. It sets the perfect ambiance for the film and makes you feel like you are with these characters. The ending left me in a complete catharsis. I was just numb, staring at the screen in disbelief. Helena Bonham Carter is unexplainably phenomenal. She is one of a rare breed of actors who can display more emotion simply with her eyes than most actors can with their entire body. I feel blessed to watch her perform. Her extreme versatility and authenticity is unparalleled. Her performance is the best from a female that I've ever seen. The Academy should be in jail for giving the Oscar to the mediocre Helen Hunt over Bonham Carter's flawless tour de force.
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Beautiful and tragic beyond measure, put it on your view list right this very minute
inkblot1120 October 2010
Kate (Helena Bonham Carter) is a young woman in love with a poor journalist, Merton (Linus Roache). Its Edwardian England and, having no money of her own, Kate lives with a wealthy aunt (Charlotte Rampling) who is avid to marry Kate well. Thus, the beautiful lady will not be free to wed Merton or any man of her choosing, if he doesn't have the goods. They meet secretly and passionately, even arranging a clandestine trip to Italy. Once there, the two cross paths with an extremely wealthy American, Millie (Alison Elliott) who casts her eye on Merton. Since neither Kate nor Merton have revealed that they are a couple, a difficult triangle is created, for Millie also chooses Kate as a friend. This becomes even more complex when the British duo learn that Millie, despite being young and beautiful, is incredibly ill with a respiratory ailment. Temptation arrives. What would happen, Kate asks Merton, if HE romances Millie, marries her and inherits her wealth upon her death? Why, the secret lovers would be set for life! Merton is appalled at the idea of making advances on a dying girl but, eventually, gives in. What neither Kate or Merton count on is the young gentleman's growing attraction to Millie, for she is sweet and funny as well as very lovely. Is tragedy in the future for this trio? Unfortunately, yes. This stunningly gorgeous film, based on the novel of Henry James, is a superior piece of movie making that cannot be denied. The three actors, Bonham Carter, Roache, and Elliott are extremely compelling in their difficult roles and all of the lesser cast members do fine work, too. Then, the setting in Italy, mostly, is lovely, with cinematography of the very finest. Costumes, too, are gorgeous, especially Elliott's garments and accessories. But, naturally, it is the powerful story of love and deception, with tragic results, that is the strongest asset of all. It should be stated that there are a couple of explicitly sexual scenes that might upset a few viewers. But, for the majority of film fans, they will be accepted as a necessary part of the story's elements. If you have never picked up this film, don't delay! Wings of the Dove is a soaring achievement that should be seen by everyone who loves great cinema.
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In Love with the Memory
tedg24 June 2000
There are two tests in my mind for a classic film.

First, it must plant some images permanently in your life. Very few films do that. Two films that are cogent to discussing this one are Helena Bonham Carter's Ophelia in Zefferelli's `Hamlet.' She and Glenn Close acted circles around the guys -- her expression in the midst of the play within the play is lasting over years in my memory. The whole film revolves around that moment.

Also lasting are several images from the ostensibly unambitious `Oscar and Lucinda.' But I also carry many lasting film images that are junk, courtesy of Lucas and Spielberg. That brings us to the second condition: for a film to be classic, evocation of the images, the remembrance, needs to be multidimensional, to elevate rather than dumb down.

Measured by those rules, this film is remarkable. For a few years, I have carried the image of the next to last scene where Carter makes love and in the act discovers the truth about her love. This is so wonderful, so tragic, so true that it has stuck with me, together with the secondary images, the memories of Venice and Millie that Merton is in love with. I hope to follow this woman's career for decades. I wonder where it will go?
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Rich, beautiful, subtle, special--Henry James not far from where he'd like it
secondtake28 August 2011
The Wings of the Dove (1997)

Yes, this is a quite, indirect, thoughtful movie. But it is never slow. And the acting is incredible, almost as incredible as all the dresses and interior sets, which will blow anyone's mind. The story, by Henry James (the master of indirect but probing feelings), is about love of all kinds. And about being a good person, really. Three of the four main leads struggle with doing the right thing (and they do the right thing). The fourth struggles, falters, then comes forward again, then falters, finally, by making a demand that can never be met.

It's unfair to compare this kind of period movie (set around 1910 even though James's book was published in 1902) to "A Room with a View" (set in the same decade) but the reason this happens is that the 1985 Merchant-Ivory masterpiece seemed to open up a new way of making period films, filled with beauty and lingering thoughts and, well, feeling. Not the feeling two people have for each other, but a feeling of a time and place. It so happens the star of this 1997 film, Helena Bonham Carter, also starred (magnificently) in the first one.

The other star is a man, Linus Roache, who almost overplays his understated character by making him dry and deadpan and polite. But it works, over time, to help make the final few seconds of the film (which are so important) succeed. The third lead, really, in this lopsided triangle, is Alison Elliott, who puts in an equally subtle performance. So much of the movie is about little changes in facial expression, the acting had to rise to the needs of the plot. Bonham Carter, above all, does this with chilling perfection.

But those dresses! This is what is called Edwardian England, the first decade of the 20th Century, a time when modernity swept Europe with a passion (Picasso and Klimt) and when cars and other new technologies were surging. The styles of the dresses are part Art Nouveau, with its Asian influences, and part European excess, a showing off of style and wealth and material sensibility. Thank god! It's just breathtaking. The interiors are likewise brimming with tiles and flowers and paintings and light of all kinds.

All of this is handled with a cinematic control that reminds me of the color coordination of mid-century Technicolor films, where the palette of a scene is often limited to a pair of colors. You'll see many scenes where a mix of blue and rusty orange are the only two colors in various guises (and these are most common because of the hair and eyes of Elliott). The cinematography is by Eduardo Serra, one of a handful of the most sumptuous contemporary shooters in film ("Girl with the Pearl Earring" and "What Dreams May Come"). And he lets the light and color inhabit every scene, never letting the photography get in the way. Just beautiful.

So what does it mean to be a good person? Who cares with all this great acting and beautiful filming? But really, you do care, and it's a touching and provoking film in all its quietness. And it's not a bit obscure. Henry James never quite liked the book, but I think it's because he expected more from it, the themes and characters are so promising. Critics have come to see it as one of his great late novels, and that much is here. Director Iain Softley takes a couple of turns that the book avoids--a little sensational talk toward the beginning, and a frank and sex scene at the end--and both are okay in the film but not actually in keeping with the tone of the rest of it, which is about never quite showing your hand even to your closest friends. It's about waiting to speak, and hiding even good intentions for fear of seeming good when in fact part of being good is simply being good, not merely seeming it.
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Much Better than I Expected!
buzzedman_ie23 February 2007
I only watched this movie because I was bored one afternoon, and it had a relatively high rating. I was expecting something along the lines of a very slow moving Merchant-Ivory period drama. The storyline was much more compelling than that. Through much of the film, I was thinking that I've seen similar stories on soap operas, and I knew how this was going to end. However, midway through the film, the story line ended up taking very interesting twists and turns. By the end of the film, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what was going to happen. The film was lushly photographed, well paced, and suspenseful. It made me want to read the original source material.
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Heat-felt film version of James' classic novel
bbmtwist30 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers

Henry James' 1906 novel, The Wings of the Dove, has been adapted as four tv films, ranging from 1952 to 1979, two stage plays, one opera, and two film versions. Only the last telefilm, the BBC 1979 production, and the two films (1981 and 1997) are available on dvd.

The 1979 BBC production last 81 minutes and the 1997 film 102, the extra time involved in the latter used for location footage and an opening out of the interior lives of its six characters. Indeed there are only six. Bonham Carter earned a Best Actress Oscar nom and a Best Actress BAFTA nom for her performance as Kate Croy. Linus Roache enacts Merton Densher. Alison Elliott is the third character in the central triangle, Milly Theale, based on James' cousin, Minny.

Three character roles support the central triangle. Charlotte Rampling plays Kate's aunt, Maud Lowder, Elizabeth McGovern portrays Milly's companion, Susie Stringham, and Alex Jennings gives us Lord Mark.

There are decided differences in approach between the 1979 and 1997 versions, both in screenplay and direction. These make for two entirely different takes on the narrative. In the BBC version Kate is the sole plotter for the web of deceit. In the 1997 film version, it is Lord Mark who first suggests the plan, as he intends to use it himself. This softens Kate's character in the film. She is "persuaded" to adopt the plan. This is a change from the novel.

Also, in the novel and BBC production, Merton and Milly have met in America before and Milly's attraction to him is already in the air. In the film version it is Kate who introduces him to her as the initial plot point in her plans.

In the BBC version, Milly is the center of the story, with Lisa Eichhorn's beautiful, heart-rending innocence radiating goodness over the emotional plotting. She is often weak or wan in this version, letting the audience know she is very ill. In the film Alison Elliott is directed to be extremely forward, almost desperately so, in playing Milly. We have less sympathy for her here and her illness, whatever it is, seems to be less debilitating. Indeed, it appears that she and Denscher walk through much of Venice in the pouring rain without much difficulty. Likewise, in the film, Merton is not a co-planner with Kate, but a reluctant companion. In the film it is he who is at the center, not Milly. Roache's sensitive, soul-searching performance is much more likeable, more malleable, than John Castle's in the BBC production. Roache's Merton seems to be bombarded by both women, Kate and Milly, and to be confused as to which he really prefers.

So we have two different approaches, each of which puts a different character at the center of the work. Bonham Carter's Kate is not as hard as that of Suzanne Bertish in the BBC version. She has a heart, as is evident in her caring for her indigent father, who does not appear in the BBC version. She is also less certain, less convinced that what she is plotting is the right direction for her to take. She is thus more human in the role than Bertish.

The cinematography and costume design in the film are sumptuous, deserving of their Oscar nominations. Likewise, the BBC did not stint in art direction and costume design in their opulent version. The film's fourth Oscar nom was for Adapted Screenplay, certainly also deserving. Much care was taken to flesh these characters out and the sensitive direction of Iain Softley serves that introspective approach admirably. There is no higher praise I can give the film than to say it seemed as fine as a Merchant Ivory collaboration.

In summary, both the 1979 and 1997 versions are enjoyable, but for different reasons. Since they are both available on dvd, I would recommend a purchase of both. The BBC version is part of a five dvd set of BBC productions of Henry James works, a treasure trove for all it contains and is well worth the price.
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One of the best film adaptations of Henry James' work ever made
TheLittleSongbird6 August 2015
Not all of Henry James' work has adapted well to screen, but there are three film adaptations especially that were adapted beautifully and are brilliant films in their own right. They are 1949's The Heiress (my personal favourite), 1961's The Innocents and this.

It is hard to decide where to begin praising The Wings of the Dove, but a definite starting point would be the production values. Simply put, The Wings of the Dove is not only one of the most visually stunning films personally seen in recent memory but also one of the most beautiful ever, strongly reminiscent of a Merchant-Ivory film. It's exquisitely shot, especially in the Venetian scenes and the final scene between Millie and Merton, the settings and period detail are so colourful and evocative and The Wings of the Dove has to contain some of the best and jaw-droppingly amazing costume design in all of film. The sensitive and beautifully elegant music score and rightly restrained direction also add a great deal.

Hossein Amini received an Oscar nomination for the film's script, and it is not hard to see why. It is a literate, deliciously dark and beautifully nuanced script that is never devoid of emotion, and adapts very difficult source material remarkably cleverly and with utmost coherence. The story is deliberate in pace, but dark and poignant- the latter scenes being incredibly powerful emotionally- and it is throughout told with complete control and respect for James' work. It also succeeds brilliantly as a mood piece, the darkness, poignancy and lyricism very well brought out. The characters also fascinate, compellingly real and human rather than labelled just good and bad.

The Wings of the Dove contains fine performances, with that of Helena Bonham Carter ranking among the year's and her best, her character makes some questionable decisions to put it lightly but the many nuances Bonham Carter brings to the role allows one to really sympathise with her and understand why she makes them. Allison Elliot was also charming and heart-breaking in a role that easily could have been played annoyingly or blandly in lesser hands, and Linus Roache handles the hardest role of the whole film and story very, very well. Charlotte Rampling, Michael Gambon, Elizabeth McGovern and Alex Jennings are all talented actors too and give excellent support.

All in all, wonderful film and one of the best Henry James film adaptations ever made. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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The Wings of the Dove is unpleasant and downbeat, a brooding adaptation of the Henry James classic American novel.
tlarry85825 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The Wings of the Dove is a downbeat brooding adaptation of the Henry James classic American novel of, as usual with Henry James, Americans abroad. The film, as the novel by the same name and almost all of James's novels, is about money and status and the power they confer on the individual.

Beautifully filmed, the scenes of Venice steal the show and are the film's real attraction. Helena Bonham Carter is good as Kate Croy, the schemer who persuades her lover, Merton Densher, played by Linus Roache, to marry a wealthy American woman who is dying, but overall, the film is lackluster, especially when compared with the much richer and more vibrant film by Jane Campion, The Portrait of a Lady (1996).

Henry James deals with subtle nuances of meaning and thought, but this is not why the film fails to satisfy. James's novels have been successfully filmed before, most notably by Jane Campion. In addition, the very Jamesian book by Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, was adapted into a wonderful film (The Age of Innocence, 1993) by Martin Scorsese. If the novelistic ambiguities of Henry James are not to blame for the film's failure, what is?

Perhaps the actors do not fully embody James's characters as portrayed in the novel. Linus Roache, for example, is slightly wooden in his portrayal of the radical social activist. Is he idealistic, a champion of the downtrodden, or merely a shallow opportunist who becomes a victimizer?

!!!!! SPOILER !!!!!

Alison Elliott plays an interesting Millie Theale, the American millionaire who loved both Carter and Roache, and her presence is felt long after she quits the mortal scene. Strangely enough, the one rather long nude scene with the beautiful Ms. Carter fails to be erotic. Instead, there is a morbid air of the tomb that surrounds the couple's frantic lovemaking.

The deep, black darkness of the love-making scene suggests that the soul of the dead Millie watches over them. After all, Millie was the bond that held them all together when she was alive. Her death will dissolve the bond of love and greed that unites Carter and Roache. Ultimately, the love scene fails because of the unpleasant associations with Millie and becomes simply depressing.

In a way, the film emphasizes the point, so well made in James Joyce's wonderful story from Dubliners, "The Dead," that the dead hold power over the living. The way the film builds up to this climax is its greatest triumph. (John Huston's adaptation of the James Joyce short story was his last film (The Dead [1987]), and a worthy addition to that director's list of masterworks.)
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Painting over Henry
mick-13716 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When the film came out a lot of people commented on the way the adaptation shifted the action forward in time to 1910.I was puzzled too but on re-viewing the film it was clear that this was to enable the filmmakers to draw on the more socially aware painting styles of the time. Essentially Kate and Merton are two people who are stuck in the oeuvre of Walter Sickert and want to move upmarket into Whistler territory. But they fail and are doomed to spend the rest of their lives in squalid Camden Town scenes. Incidentally this means there are artistically valid reasons for Helena Bonham Carter getting her kit off--the final scene is pretty much Sickert's "What Shall We Do for the Rent?" with live actors. While this visual metaphor is superbly played out, it is at the expense of James' intricate verbal edifices. The film grates when anyone opens their mouth: as animated paintings, the characters are literally two-dimensional. This is a film which is at its best when no-one is saying anything, and would have worked much better as a silent movie.
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Deception, Love, Jealousy in 1910
Eumenides_03 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Wings of the Dove is a sinister, fascinating love story.

Helena Bonham Carter plays Kate Croy, an ambitious but poor young woman who lives on the generosity of a rich aunt. Unable to live poor but not wanting to surrender to the husband her aunt is trying to find for her, she hatches a genius and simple plan: to let her boyfriend, Merton Densher (Linus Roache) seduce the rich and dying American millionaire Millie (Alison Elliott) so that she will leave all her money to him.

Carter shines in this movie and her performance is one of the main reasons to watch it. It's one of those rare performances in which all the character's thoughts and feelings are transmitted by the eyes; Carter's eyes are always expressive, she barely needs any dialogue.

And yet Hossein Amini's screenplay is also one of the brighter aspects of the movie. I cannot judge ho well he adapted the novel since I haven't yet read it, but as a movie it's a joy: each dialogue is essential, precise and enjoyable; no words are wasted or out of place. The movie's pacing is constant, deceptively calm but always filled with tension, for deception is pretty much the theme of the movie: how far will someone go to deceive another, and what effect will it have on them? For Merton the moral consequences of the deception haunt him as he realizes he may be falling in love with Millie, whereas Kate fears she may be losing her beloved's affection. Between this strange dynamic we have the innocent, cheerful Millie.

The movie is also a fine period piece: Sandy Powell got a a much-deserved Oscar nomination for the costume design, but in truth all aspects of the movie deserve merit for their recreation of England in 1910. This movie takes us to places period movies seldom do: the underground system; the interior of bookshops and opium-dens; the interior of museums (in a wonderful sequence the characters attend a Klimt exhibition).

And then there's the way Eduardo Serra's cinematography captures Venice in 1910. Serra is an under-appreciated director of cinematography, although he's left his mark in many memorable movies. His best work perhaps remains this movie, in particular the segment taking place in Venice. The way he captures the old canals, the gondolas, the colors at night during Carnival, the decay of the buildings, the beauty of the monuments, perhaps surpass the classic Death In Venice.

The Wings of the Dove was a pleasant surprise, an underrated movie that caught me completely by surprise with its perfection. Although it was nominated for several Oscars back in 1998, it seems time has forgotten it. That's a pity, but for those who dare to give it a look, it'll be a huge source of joy!
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You think love is sexual chemistry, think again!
zfiany30 March 2009
This is a movie which might be overlooked for the romantic side of it because some people tend to judge a movie as trash if it is about romance. Well, I agree but not all romantic movies are the same. There are romantic movies that have messages which go beyond the emotion of love to the twin emotions jealousy, envy, sexual desires, respect, humanity, sacred love, pain and many others. All these feelings you can still experience in a romantic movie cooked well.

Wings of dove is a movie with a plot and actually there is a part in the middle of the movie where if you pay attention carefully you might be able to understand what's going on before the story starts revealing its chapters. Actors are great; Helena Bonham Carter is indeed good in this role and Alison Elliotte is just as good and even better. Linus Roache also knows how to exhibit his transmitting emotions in a brilliant way. He knew how to play the difference which is a thin line between love and desire. You only have to guess whom he loved and whom he desired.
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A very long weeper
aberlour3610 January 2008
This long, long soap opera is not at all worth the academy award accolades one sees on the film box. It is boring, predictable, and oh-so-arty. Yes, the acting is good, especially if one doesn't mind watching Helena Bonham Carter perpetually whimpering and simpering with one of her three facial expressions. The costumes were lavish, and there was a lot of money spent on making the film appear to be authentically 1910. The much-touted scenes of Venice are nothing special. The most beautiful scenes are on screen for only seconds, and then it's back to the set. The sex scene near the film's conclusion is pretty gross; this is the most liberal definition of "R" I've seen in some time. All in all, this is for soap opera fans exclusively. A four hankie job.
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Apt Title
wisewebwoman4 March 2006
A delicate froth of a tale. Henry James stories are all in the subtleties of human behaviour, the unacknowledged depth of our desires, the secrecy of our manipulations. Many plusses to commend it, not least of which is the setting of Venice for most of the story, just saturated in rich colours. Many scenes of satin/silk clothing reclining on matching satin/silk furniture, a cocktail for the eye.

Helena Bonham-Carter (playing Kate) never fails to deliver incredible performances, ably assisted by her looks which belong to another century, the eighteenth or nineteenth. Alison Elliot plays Millie, the dying rich girl who is the prey of Kate, penniless, in love with an impoverished journalist, Merton, played by Linus Roache. Kate's desire drives the plot but the subtleties are in Millie's acknowledgment of it and the effect of the machinations on the tortured Merton.

Many wonderful bits, particularly Michael Gambon as Kate's alcoholic father and Charlotte Rampling as her aunt who sees everything. Too light a tale to sustain a full movie-length, some annoying anachronistic bits. 6 out of 10.
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Glossy, plotless
paul2001sw-19 March 2004
'The Wings of the Dove' is a slick period romance, but slightly too glossy (everything we see is either gorgeous or squalid - was there no mundane in the Edwardian period?). Helena Bonham Carter's role is that of a sassy young woman, well-connected but with no money of her own, who decides to manage an emotional con-trick. But she can't cope with the consequences of her own actions. Unfortunately, the plot is poorly developed - the other characters are not held responsible for their own actions, while Bonham Carter progresses from master schemer to victim of her own machinations in little more than a scene. Perhaps for this reason, all the actors seem a little disconnected from the story, the depth of their involvements conveyed by little more than the occasional smouldering look. Someone dies beautifully, but the film as a whole is synthetically inert. Though changes from a constant diet of Hollywood blockbusters are usually welcome, 'The Wings of the Dove' is almost like a parody of a subtle film - delicate but flat.
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The Wings of the Dove
lasttimeisaw25 March 2012
A British period drama cannot be a bad alternative for a flushing upsurge of my Febiofest movie-goers' schedule. Nominated for 4 Oscars (Leading Actress, Cinematography, Costume and Adapted Screenplay), TWOTD represents a paradigmatic melodrama study of love, conspiracy, betrayal and passion, meanwhile mildly bashes the mercenary vanity then, all converges to a superior satisfactory coda.

Venice part is memorably shot as an enchanting last journey to enjoy the fullest of one's life, an engaging score from Edward Shearmur firstly accompanies the film with a soothing pace, then adheres to the dramatic rotation aptly all the way along.

The most striking caliber of the film is indisputably the acting stretch, Helena Bonham Carter is magnetically absorbing in her puberty of mixing brisk gal, smart aleck manipulator and sophisticated lovelorn victim, her career-best so far. A terrifically undervalued Alison Elliott radiates an unassumingly captivating rendition with both vulnerability and playfulness (she and Helena currently end up No. 2 and No. 1 in my Oscar chart for supporting and leading actress respectively). To juggle with these two vehement lovebirds, Linus Roache (the alien form THE FORGOTTEN 2005) may be tread the water a little bit frivolously, with a moral criterion swinging back and forth ambiguously, he tackles the most tricky part heedfully. The nudity scene near its finale is theatrically robust in delivering a love-lost denouement and generates poignant pathos. The minor satellites revolving around are all British old hands, Rampling. Gambon are too skimpy on screen, while McGovern's sedately elegant attendance is never histrionic.

Adapted from Henry James' novel of the the same name, this Neo-classical piece has an imposing buzz on its own merit, some might deem it a shad mawkish, but I'm confidently not among that breed.
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An impressive period drama
Tweekums19 January 2020
It is London in 1910 and protagonist Kate Croy, a beautiful young woman, is living with her wealthy but controlling aunt. Kate has fallen in love with Merton Densher, a journalist of whom her aunt disapproves and forbids her to see. Her aunt is pushing her in the direction of the 'more suitable' Lord Mark. When wealthy young American heiress Milly Theale arrives on the scene Lord Mark informs Kate that Milly is dying and he intends to marry her for her money, to save his estates, before returning to Kate... Kate decides Merton should be the one getting close to Milly so, during an extended holiday in Venice guides them together... there is a risk though; what if he falls in love with her?

I've not read the book on which this film is based so can't say how they compare; but as a work in its own right I really enjoyed it. The romance feels real, with Kate clearly knowing she is taking a risk... both that her aunt will disinherit her for seeing Merton and that he might genuinely fall for Milly. The setting is beautifully realised but never feels dated... which it shouldn't as whatever present one is in feels modern for those people in it. Helena Bonham Carter does a brilliant job in the role of Kate; she shows what Kate is feeling with the subtlest of expressions; she also makes it easy to sympathise with Kate even while she is being morally ambiguous. Linus Roache and Alison Elliott impress as Merton and Milly respectively and the rest of the cast is solid. The film looks great from start to finish as it moves from London to Venice. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of period dramas.
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Great film
Kaleko5 April 2012
This is a great film to watch when you are feeling a little melancholy and want to be taken away somewhere else- Somewhere far away, and subdued.

It was a slow yet enjoyable film. I would say that some might find it boring. It is true that the plot is fairly simple, and you have to wait a while for the few twists and turns it has. Though, it does always have something interesting going on, and the pace is decent for what it is. But if you don't enjoy long cerebral romances and period films, you probably won't enjoy this.

I have to say it was visually appealing. This helps the film from becoming boring. Also the two leading ladies are gorgeous. You see the beauty of darkness in Kate and the beauty of sunshine in Millie- like night and day. I must agree fully with Lord Mark's comment about Kate's eyes.

What was great about this film was the acting, presentation, mood, and lesson.

Okay spoiler time, because I'd like to share my opinions on what happened. What I took away from this film is that it is not a good idea to persuade your love, for whatever reason, to be with another, even if it seems like a good idea at the time! Ha. Though I fully sympathized with Kate.

She wasn't the sociopath that you often see in stories like this. She actually did care for Millie, and it seemed that she tried to convince herself that it would actually be good for Millie, at first. Although, the way she did try to break them up was a little heartless to her friend. But you can understand how it would be difficult for her to find any other way to do it. I suppose she could have admitted it to Millie herself, but I would think she might be too ashamed to do this. And anyways, she did say "this is the first time I didn't feel bad for her." She was jealous, and whilst at first she may not have expected herself to feel jealous, I think we can all understand the lack of sympathy we might have for someone if we did truly become jealous of them. So it is a little understandable that she would have hurt her friend. Besides, her friend would have been hurt anyway if she knew the truth with whatever way she found out, and she did deserve to know it.

The best part for me was the ending where she was turned away by Merton. (By the way, did anyone else notice how at the end, Kate laid in the same position as the woman in the painting she asked Millie to look at?) I didn't fully expect her to be rejected. But it did make sense afterwards, as he was faced with a truly good human being, and felt so wretched about what he and Kate did to Millie, and finally realized that Kate wasn't such a great person after all. I think he was put off by the selfishness in Kate's final demand. I think if she hadn't requested that, he might have let bygones be bygones. But seriously, one can understand why she felt hurt and worried about throwing away so much to pursue this "true" love that she wasn't sure still existed. She was worried she already lost him to another woman and missed his undying singular commitment to her. But I can see why Merton would be so offended. Her request really did speak of an ignorance and uncaring about his feelings which may have developed, which were all her fault to begin with.

I honestly thought it was a little silly for Kate to make her final demand. I mean honestly, she loved Millie and she should have realized that it was only natural to love such a great person. Besides, it's not like she would truly be a threat any more, 6 feet under! All things fade with time.

Kate was honest with him about her feelings and intentions, so I don't think that Merton should have turned her away due to a lack of trust. Especially since she did change her mind in the end about going through with the plan. But I do suppose he could have resented the fact that she wanted money so badly, or acted so selfishly, or lied at all, and would have never known whether she was with him for his money after he got it. I suppose that was where his demand came from. But the fact she agreed to marry him should have been enough. He should have called her silly when she brought up her side of the bargain, and admitted that yes he loved the memory of Millie, just as Kate found herself loving her. I mean come on, Millie was an easy person to love, and Kate should have understood that. Besides, if Kate truly just wanted Merton for the money, she wouldn't have made her request.

But really, they probably did need some time apart. I think that later on, they probably would find themselves back together after they had healed from the experience.

One last thing I wanted to mention - The scene where Merton was crying was amazing. I don't think I've ever seen such a realistic portrayal of a man crying on screen before. He really nailed that one, and I felt very sympathetic to the feelings he was portraying.

Anyway, it really was a wonderful film. It was very grey in its portrayal of the goodness and badness of the characters, which I like, and which isn't easy to do. It also made you think. I only downgraded it a bit because the storyline, while nicely portrayed, wasn't anything really spectacular.
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Great to look at
Arkaan26 January 2000
Someone has already said of how Bonham Carter's character doesn't make sense, and I'm forced to agree. She is manipulative and deceitful, and we never really find out if she does love Merton or is using him as excitement.

The love story is quite well told, otherwise, with excellent performances by the three leads. Alison Elliot is great as the American heiress. Her Millie is quite funny and enjoyable, yet serious and sad. Bonham Carter also gives a great performance as the confounding Kate Croy. Linus Roache gives a subtle performance in a role quite unlike his role in Priest. He projects hints of happiness, yet assuming he is a happy person would be incorrect.

The cinematography is beautiful, and the scenes with Roache and Elliot very touching. It is worth a look
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